3 'Dumb' Phrases Every Great Leader Should Avoid
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

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Awesome communication is part of great leadership and management. We all know that. But we also know that sometimes things that are said by those in authority that can lead to more harm than good. One Inc. contributor details a few commonly used ‘dumb’ phrases that won’t help any leader’s plight toward success or effective team building.

“Great leadership is hard,” writes Les McKeown, President & CEO of Predictable Success, an adviser on accelerated business growth.  “Very occasionally, it’s pretty simple– like just not saying dumb things.”

One such statement that many leaders run into is:

“Don’t bring me any surprises.” “I hear it all the time, and so do you (maybe you’re even guilty of it yourself)– a leader is blindsided by some event they couldn’t have predicted, and, out of embarrassment, swears they’ll never be caught unaware again,” McKeown adds. “At first they work harder, longer, assimilating data like an apocalypse is on the horizon that only they can avert, but then…bam. Another unexpected shoe drops, another unpredictable event occurs, and our leader is left with egg on their face all over again.”

McKeown offers the following alternative: Don’t shun bad news or surprises, but do just the opposite. Promote getting an early heads on possible issues that could arise, or at the mere sign of trouble, make a supervisor aware before the full blowup.

The next two McKeown advises leaders to avoid are:

“If you were an animal, what kind of an animal would you be?” (and other such ‘meaningless pseudo-psychological mumbo jumbo’ that is inquired about during job interviews.)

“Don’t take it personally.” Prefacing statements with this, McKeown suggests, negates that indeed you’re working with a real-live person, with feelings and emotions tied to what brings home the bacon.

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Janell Hazelwood

Janell Hazelwood is associate managing editor at Black Enterprise, managing content across core areas of Money, Career, Small Business and Technology. She is also a featured blogger with My Two Cents, providing insights on branding, millennial career development, employment trends and leadership. She was previously a content producer and copy editor for Black Enterprise magazine, working across several editorial sections. The Hampton University graduate got her start in the newspaper industry, having worked for companies including The New York Times and Scripps Howard News Service. Her works and insights have appeared on The Huffington Post, MadameNoire, E!Online, Brazen Careerist, CBS News, and Arise TV.


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